Ben Simmons was supposed to be ready for the opening round series in the NBA playoffs. Then the unsurprising setback started.
According to Bleacher Report, he was on track to play as early as Game three. Then his timeline shifted, and it was game four that he would surely be ready for. Then, of course, he was not ready for game four either. I highly doubt he would have debuted in game five on the parquet floor of the hostile Boston Garden. What is this dude's issue? It is complicated.
Headcase or Back?
This is dangerous water to tread in. I value people's journey in improving and maintaining their mental health, but at a certain point, it becomes the excuse or the enabling elephant in the room.
We've entered a turning point in how we view mental health and work/life balance, and I don't seek to minimize that in the slightest. The problem is, sometimes you do just have to do your job. Simmons has had the label of being a spoiled brat since well before he donned a 76ers uniform. We're not even a year removed from the incident where Doc Rivers had to kick him out of practice for refusing to participate in a defensive drill. His back was fine at that moment, but his attitude wasn't. It is clear looking back that his attitude stemmed from wanting to force the 76ers to trade him to greener pastures. Well, he got his greener pasture in Brooklyn and his back ached into the end of the Nets season.
So is this all a case of Simmons having poor mental health, and needing additional assistance? By all accounts, the 76ers offered all the mental health assistance he needed. The 76ers expected Simmons to play unless he provided a doctor's note (yes I am serious) but predictably that doctor's note never came. What did show up were quotes from Simmon's agent Rich Paul.
“I truly believe the fines, the targeting, the negative publicity shined on the issue — that’s very unnecessary and has furthered the mental health issues for Ben."
Ah yes. The 76ers were a regular Torquemada regime, torturing Simmons by expecting that he suit up and play basketball. Last I checked, that's what they were paying him to do. Eventually, Simmons got what he demanded, and was traded to Brooklyn where he suited up. He suited up into his gaudy street clothes, not a Nets uniform, though.
Now that the Nets were bounced in the first round, the front office in Brooklyn has some tough questions to ask. Simmons hasn't played a minute of NBA basketball in a year. Given his lack of basketball minutes and the circus of baggage surrounding him, does he even hold any trade value left? Any team would be forced to give up valuable draft picks and another piece just for a player who does not seem to want to play basketball. If we're going to give him some benefit of the doubt, then at best we're still talking about a point guard who can't shoot but wants to be the centerpiece of his team.
I don't see a place where Simmons figures it out. What I predict happening is he either plays for Brooklyn for a while, has a few good games, but then burns out when his deficiencies are shown on the big stage once again. The only real mystery is who his agent will blame that time.